The day before departure Monday, May 16, 2011 at 12:07pm
There is always much to do to prepare a boat for sea, but when the passage will encompass a month or more on board there are many important things that can have a big impact on the success of the venture. Of course, the vessel must be seaworthy, safe, and loaded with provisions and spares. The route must be carefully chosen with consideration to prevailing winds and currents. But even more important can be the choice of crew.
Now, I am no psychologist, but having sailed thousands of miles offshore with many different people, I have made some interesting observations. People change at sea! Mostly this is very subtle change but some times, not so! Even the strongest people can be humbled by the vastness of the ocean. For some, there is an overwhelming sense of insecurity, for some a relaxed acceptance and serenity, and for still others, a kind of lethargy overtakes them and they find it hard to even leave there bunks.
Although the extremes may be rare, by watching the crew carefully even before leaving the dock, but especially at the beginning of the passage, it is possible to find common ground. Everyone has strong points and by finding out how each member of the crew can contribute to the well being of the group, it is possible for everyone to have a focus, and to enjoy not only the adventure of sailing but also the rewards of working as a team.
Shared hardships can be a very strong bonding experience. Working together as a team on a long ocean passage in close quarters can teach one how to be truly considerate. Perhaps most importantly the camaraderie that develops from sharing a common love of nature and the ocean can lead to lasting friendships and memories, ones that we can carry throughout our lives.
I am learning a lot about sailors’ scintillating conversations on board. In rough order of frequency, they talk about:
- Wind: forecasts, high and low pressure areas, confident predictions for wind to come (invariably followed by disclaimers about how one never knows about wind), possible routes given different winds, winds of the past, and all the winds better than the current one
- Weather: clouds, squalls, rains, systems, and fronts; and waves: their shapes, lengths, curves, crests, heights
- Today’s run: how many knots we did today, why we did not do more knots, how many knots we could have done if only…., runs of the past, runs of the future, other boats’ runs, word-plays with knots (knot funny)
- Horror wind and weather stories: followed by optimistic predictions about how quickly this trip will be over, despite unfavorable wind
- Boats: favorite boats, shitty boats, ideal boats, boats sailed, boats owned, boats seen, boats imagined
- Motors and anything else that needs fixing: on board, and how to accomplish the repairs, along with chest-thumping stories about impossible repairs pulled off in the past
- Other boats with the same destination, the bad course they chose (given 1, 2, and 3), and, above all, how to beat them
- Fish – as far as I can tell, fish are never caught, but that does not stop endless talk about how to prepare the fish that will be caught shortly
- Heads: how to shop for them, how to judge how well they sit, how to measure load, how to install heads (at home and on board), how they’ve been enjoyed, and how they’ve mal-functioned. In that case, it is happily back to 6
- Lastly, in response to a certain someone pointing out that the boat might use some cleaning, the answers are either “this is a boat, Marjo” or “we will do that when we get there.” After the latter answer, it is back to 1
We’re a few days out from St Maarten, sailing north to Bermuda with a good start to the adventure. Riding the waves, enjoying the breeze and watching for ships while on deck. We’ve seen some flying fish and have had birds stay with us. We’re cooking fabulous dinners and are enjoying our outdoor dining room. More to come when we arrive in Bermuda.
(This perspective comes from a reformed power boater with a zillion days at sea but mostly coast-wise in the charter industry.) While I have done 20 or so coast-wise deliveries this is my first trip across the big pond. We finally got off the dock on the 17th with a minimum of to-do. As ships Engineer (assigned, not requested) I got several pre departure projects to insure the success of the overall endeavor which let me have another good look at the boat overall.
The first couple of days gave us some incredible sailing conditions but some nighttime squalls. Big Al handled them all like the performance cruiser that she is. Al just hauls ass. Right now we are very close hauled and hauling booty. YES that’s the way I like it.
We had to deal with a few mechanical anomalies but nothing crazy and in line with boats in general. We are getting a good baseline on fuel consumption as there is not enough wind right now to make any way. That means almost nothing for Big Al as she makes the most of very little.
The crew had a few seasickness rough spots early on but gradually pulled out of it. Now on day three everyone is in good spirits and getting acclimated to the boat and one another. We are 2 days from Bermuda and tentatively plan on a day or 2 of resupplying and rest before the long haul to Azores.
The cooks aboard are making the best of the ships stores therefore my planned diet will fail. Dang!
Looking forward to a bit of time to work up a magazine article or two to submit just to stay busy.